Walsh page-scholarship bill signed by governor

Walsh page-scholarship bill signed by governor

Walsh inmate education, welfare job-training bills also enacted

Gov. Jay Inslee signs Senate bill creating page-scholarship program Tuesday. Sponsor Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, is in front row, second from right.

OLYMPIA – A bill creating a page scholarship program in memory of Walla Walla native Gina Grant Bull was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 5346, sponsored by Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, creates a privately-funded scholarship program for students who participate in the House and Senate page programs. The page programs allow students age 14 to 16 to spend a week working in the Legislature. The Gina Grant Bull Memorial Legislative Page Scholarship program will provide assistance with temporary housing, uniforms and other needs. Bull, daughter of the late Rep. Bill Grant, D-Walla Walla, was supervisor of the House page program until her death last October at age 57.

“Gina was working on this idea when she passed away last year,” Walsh explained. “She recognized that many students are unable to participate in the page program because of housing issues and other difficulties. This is especially true for students from Eastern Washington, who must travel hundreds of miles to the Capitol. This scholarship program will allow students from all walks of life to serve as pages, and will honor the important contribution Gina made.”

Gina Grant Bull, left, served as House page supervisor during the 2016 session.

The scholarship bill is among three measures sponsored by Walsh during the regular session that have been signed into law. Earlier, the governor approved bills creating new vocational training opportunities for prison inmates and extending welfare recipients’ eligibility for job-training programs. Tuesday was the final day for the governor to take action on bills passed during this year’s regular session, which ended April 23. Lawmakers are continuing to meet in special session to resolve differences over the state budget.

Other Walsh bills:

  • TANF vocational training. Senate Bill 5347, signed by the governor April 27, gives Temporary Assistance to Needy Families recipients two years to complete job-training programs, improving the chance that they will complete their certificates or degrees and find jobs in their new career fields. Until now, participants in the state’s TANF program, known as WorkFirst, have had just 12 months to finish training before they are required to search for a job 30 hours a week. Only 16 percent have been able to complete certificates or degrees before time runs out.

“We want to empower welfare recipients to achieve economic security,” Walsh said. “This law will increase the likelihood those who use TANF will obtain family wage jobs and stay off the welfare system.”

  • Inmate vocational education. Senate Bill 5069, signed by the governor April 25, allows community and technical colleges to develop new two-year degree programs for Washington prisons, expanding current offerings that emphasize literacy and job skills. Inmate contributions and private donations will defray costs, resulting in no additional cost to the state. Death row inmates and those serving sentences of life without parole will not be eligible.

“The vast majority of inmates will be released back into our communities,” Walsh said. “These degree programs will give them the skills they need to find good jobs when they get out, help them reintegrate into society, and reduce the chance of recidivism.”